Brunei -- Davao City tankers Joshua Raphael del Rio and Fritz Jun Rodriguez made waves in their 10th BIMP NT-Eaga Friendship Games debut, annexing two gold medals for Team Mindanao-Philippines at the start of the swimming competition at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex here as of 12 p.m. Thursday.
Davao City head of delegation Mikey Aportadera, who cheered for the Dabawenyo swimmers along with Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Commissioner Charles Raymond A. Maxey lauded them for their efforts.
“I am always proud of Davao City and Mindanao athletes. It's not about the size since others were taller and bigger than them. But even before leaving the city I already told them to play with their hearts and that's what we have seen here,” the Sports Development Division of the City Mayor's Office (SDD-CMO) officer-in-charge said.
Commissioner Maxey, for his part, thanked the swimmers for representing the country. He also encouraged those who failed to win medals to “never lose hope” as they are still young and they can always bounce back.
Del Rio, 15, a Grade 9 student of Ateneo de Davao University, raised his arms in victory after checking in at two minutes and 3.95 seconds in men's 200-meter freestyle finals. He raced past fellow Dabawenyo Eirron Seth Vibar who salvaged the silver and Brunei Team A's Nur Haziq Samil who settled for bronze.
Vibar finished in 2:04.00 while Samil came next with 2:05.93 in the 21-under event.
Del Rio, who was urged by her mother to take swimming during preschool since he was diagnosed with asthma, still could not believe his feat. “It's my first international games and I got the country's first gold. I really did not expect this. I just wanted to win the gold and determined to win the gold despite knowing that an Australian team is also competing,” he said in an interview with SunStar Davao after his race.
He trained six days a week under Ateneo coach Sam Alcos for the tournament - one hour in the morning before his classes and two hours in the afternoon after his classes.
He thanked God for the win and his mother Elaine, a manager of the Philippine National Bank in Davao, for supporting him all these years. Del Rio will still see action in two more individual events.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, ruled the men's 50m breastroke by clocking 31.22 seconds. Darren Ngui Moh Gin of Sarawak Malaysa (31.86) ended up with the silver while Dabawenyo Edward Alfaro III of Mindanao-PH (31.98) took the bronze.
The 17-year-old Rodriguez, a Grade 12 ABM student of San Beda University, shared, “Maka-overwhelm kasi first swim event ko, di ko in-expect na mag gold ako. May malakas din akong katabi kanina from Malaysia po ata. First time ko ring sumali sa Eaga Games.”
Rodriguez, the youngest among four children of Jun, a swimming coach, and Dioscora, a housewife, dedicated his win to his mother. “Para sa nanay ko po ang panalong ito kasi sya nagpush sa aking pagbutihin ko sa training at kay Kuya Carlo ko po sya yung nag-alaga sa akin since bata pa ako.”
He was born in the Island Garden City of Samal. He later studied at the Davao City National High School before he moved to the University of Mindanao on his 11th grade. He competed under Davao City and Davao Region in the Palarong Pambansa for six years and accounted for one silver and three bronzes.
Mindanao-PH's swimming team also got a silver courtesy of Davao City's Ivo Nikolai Enot and a bronze from Elson Jake Rodriguez in men's 100m backstroke.
Sabah, Malaysia led the swimfest so far with three golds, two silvers and three bronzes followed by Northern Territory (2-3-0) in second, Mindanao-PH (2-2-2) third, South Sulawesi (1-0-1) fourth and Sarawak (0-1-1) fifth.